The Supreme Court of the Lone Star State recently heard two cases of same-sex couples who got married in Massachusetts but tried to get divorced in their home state of Texas. The year 2013 marked equality in marriage across much of the United States and even the steadfast Texas is now turning its attention to lawmakers to see if they will allow same-sex couples to dissolve their unions.
The couples seeking divorce claim their marriages are valid in the state of Massachusetts so it was not necessary for Texas to recognize the unions in order to allow them to divorce. The state attorney general did not agree, stating that same sex couples in Texas are unable to divorce because the constitutional marriage amendment of 2005 clearly outlines same sex-unions are not recognized. The resultant fray has placed disagreements in appeals courts in several Texas cities.
One Austin couple was allowed to divorce in a lower court, but the attorney general stepped in and filed a motion in the third court of appeals. The lower court's decision prevailed but the case has been sent to the Supreme Court for final resolution. According to reports, the state attorney general has spent almost one million dollars of taxpayer money to dispute cases between 2009 and 2013. Many of these cases were heard in the high court in the last two years. In some cases, briefs were requested following landmark decisions in the federal Supreme Court. And requested again.
Legal advisors for same sex couples have argued based on marriage validity in another state, claiming only the parties and not the state have the right to contest. Assistant attorney general countered by continuing to uphold state law, which does not recognize same-sex marriage. Two other couples desiring to marry in Texas filed a lawsuit in San Antonio, but one couple ended up marrying in another state.
One alternative according to legal advisors is to file a temporary injunction that could prevent state officials from enforcing the marriage amendment. Such motions request inclusion of a marriage license. Arguments are slated to be heard next month. While some same sex couples are optimistic, both the governor and the attorney general could reportedly ask for proof that the law harms same sex couples, an act that would delay a ruling for more than a year.
While legal issues surrounding same-sex marriages abounded in 2013, one thing remains clear. The Lone Star State definitively appears to be unfriendly to those couples seeking to marry their same-sex partners for some time to come.
Source: dallasvoice.com, "2013 Year In Review: 3. Gay marriage, divorce became Texas issues" Anna Waugh, Dec. 27, 2013